By John S. McClenahen Even with a majority of U.S. manufacturers now expecting recovery from economic recession to be underway by mid-year, machine tool producers have yet to post an upturn in orders. Gross new orders for U.S. machine tools in January 2002 totaled $149.64 million, down 7.8% from December 2001's mark of $162.37 million, jointly report AMT -- The Association for Manufacturing Technology, McLean, Va., and the American Machine Tool Distributors' Association, Rockville, Md. January orders for metal cutting machine tools were $139.43 million, down 0.7% from the $140.43 million recorded in December. Meanwhile orders for metal forming tools dropped a dramatic 53.5% to $10.21 million from $21.94 million. AMT President Don F. Carlson hails this month's passage of an economic stimulus bill that allows first-year write-off of 30% of equipment purchases. But, in fact, the measure's impact on orders for machine tools and other kinds of capital equipment is difficult to determine, particularly with several major manufacturing industries from autos to steel saddled with too much capacity.